First: The Cardinals saved their season in Charlotte...for now.
- Depending on your perspective the Cardinals either saved their season or delayed the inevitable. We'll find out in the coming weeks ahead which is more true. For me, there's really no saving the season for this team. Each win preserves their week to week chances but I lack the conviction of faith in this team's leadership to believe there's any sort of long term solution happening in real time. There's no denying by beating the Panthers the Cardinals kept the path open to be the flawed-but-resilient-team-that-knows-how-to-win-ugly for the rest of the year. If they can respond to this win with humility, something this franchise has struggled with, they can carry over more of this win than their Raiders victory from earlier in the year. I remain dubious and believe 25 or so NFL teams would've buried the Cardinals in the first half on Sunday but they happened to be playing Baker Mayfield. Time will tell.
1. JJ Watt's comeback story this week is nothing short of remarkable.
- Diagnosed with a-fib midweek, his heart shocked back to its regular function and leading the defense to their best performance this season was quite a week for Mr. Watt. His emotional post game press conference resonated with anyone who's become a parent. When you have a kid, you start measuring your time left by how many of your kids accomplishments you will be around for. I remember just desperately wanting to be around long enough to be a father for the first time and experience that. It doesn't go away after your first, your life becomes a measurement not of what you are wanting to do but by what you are wanting to experience as a parent.
2. The Cardinals offense may have found something in their second half scoring drives.
- The Cardinals should write this down like its grandma's secret chocolate chip cookie recipe: For a functioning offense, add some early Kyler Murray runs with some different running back personnel with a dash of screens and at least one big play down the field to Hollywood Brown. For best results, repeat these steps for four quarters.
3. The Cardinals slow starts are still a major problem.
- Its concerning to me that for two weeks everyone in the Cardinals organization and everyone covering the Cardinals organization has talked about slow starts and the need to get better. And the slow starts continue to be a problem. The Cardinals first half performance against the Panthers was arguably their most frustrating of the season. From the Rondale Moore 4th down jet sweep to the complete lack of targets down the field, Kyler and the Cardinals has to find a way to be better earlier.
4. James Conner needs fewer carries but that's not a bad thing.
- Conner played n 50 snaps on offense, Darrell Williams on 16 and Eno Benjamin 11. I'd like to see more balance based on the results. At this point, its clear to me that while Conner is a valuable part of the rotation and is being paid like a #1 RB, he is not in fact a true #1 RB. His short yardage abilities and powerful running style carry a lot of value to the offense but Williams and Eno have more juice and the offense is more dangerous with them in it.
5. 2022 Rondale Moore looked an awful lot like 2021 Rondale Moore.
- Moore was used like the gimmicky WR in his 2022 debut that he was used as last year and that's not a good thing. The Cardinals inability to design a role for Moore that creates more open field opportunities for him is puzzling.
6. The Cardinals lack of a pass rush is going to become a bigger problem.
- It won't be every game the opposing team's quarterback is firing pass after pass into the defensive line's hands like Baker Mayfield. The Cardinals doubled their season sack total in Charlotte but still lacked a consistent pass rush to disrupt Baker Mayfield. Most of Mayfield's problems were self inflicted. If the Cardinals want to stay better as a defense, they have to find a way to create more disruption from their pass rush.
7. Byron Murphy is going to get PAID.
- Murphy allowed 2 catches for 15 yards on Sunday. This comes after he helped shut down Cooper Kupp and two weeks after he put Davante Adams in a straight jacket. Murphy is thriving as the teams CB1 and at this pace is going to be a JC Jackson deal or better from the Cardinals or someone else.
8. The Cardinals just ended Baker Mayfield
- Mayfield was pathetic on Sunday and there's no hiding from it. With Sam Darnold still a ways away from returning from an ankle injury, Mayfield will likely get a handful more starts but then that could be it for his starting career as a QB. Mayfield is unlikely to thrive as a backup, feeling more like the Cam Newton/Tim Tebow kind of QB who is either a starter or off your radar.
- 9. Under the Radar Stars:
Kelvin Beachum, Nick Vigil, Eno Benjamin and Dennis Gardeck
10: What's Next: vs. Philadelphia
- The Eagles bring the second highest scoring offense, the second highest point differential, the MVP front runner and a defense with the most sacks in the NFL into town on Sunday. So year, things will be a bit different opponent wise from Week 4.